El Salton to Santiago de Cuba

map el salton to santiago

Click on any of the small pictures below to get a large image

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The Hotel Libertad was .. ..set on Plaza de Marte and we.. .. looked across the road to it. Typical Cuban hotel desk.
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Ornate entrance hall, where we . . had a few drinks, while upstairs .the boys were looked after.  

We stayed at Hotel Libertad in Santiago de Cuba and enjoyed he "experience". It was a doddle to find. We came in on the motorway and kept going straight and that led us into the Plaza de Marte here the hotel is located, without the need to enter the one way system. You can park your car directly in front of the hotel on the Square.

I would preface any of the things I have to say about Cuban hotels that one has to remember that they are "Cuban" hotels staffed by Cubans, and you have to think of them in that light. Frommers say of the Libertad. "Fronting the busy Plaza de Marte...Only half of the rooms here have windows, and you will definitely want a room with a window. No. 214 is the hotel's largest and best room. All have simple furnishings, and small, but functional bathrooms "

Well we were in the said room 214 and that is certainly the room you want. It has a window overlooking La Plaza de Marte, and is great for people watching from your window. On the downside the room is noisy at night from traffic- Cubans tend to use their car horns a lot, and in addition the old engines do make a great deal of din. You would not call room 214 "luxurious" by European standards, but by Cuban standards it was. The hotel foyer had bags of character and had been well restored.

Hotel Libertad is on the edge of the town centre, about 800 metres from the main square, but is conveniently place for most things, and you will not have to walk too far to cover all that the centre of Santiago has to offer

The only problem we had was in the restaurant, where with only one other table and a waiting staff of 4, they managed to avoid coming near us for 15 minutes, and in the end we just left and ate in town. Breakfast was really "standard" Cuban, unmemorable, neither good nor bad.

We had, or attempted to have, two evening meals in Santiago.

The first night we attempted to eat in the hotel restaurant, but they did not want to know us. With only 1 other table and 4 waiting staff, there was no excuse. So after sitting waiting for an interminable period, the menus were "plonked" in front of us with such bad grace that I decided to leave. So we wandered off down the road and hit upon El Batturo, which was certainly authentic Cuban. It had a long, and I mean long mahogany bar, and was packed. We were not given a menu (always a bad sign in Cuba, as it usually means they want to rip you off), and our order was given to the same waitress on 3 occasions over a 10 minute period. An hour ( an I mean an hour) later no food had arrived, so we paid for our beers and left. By this stage we did not feel like trying a 3rd restaurant so went to bed without any bread.

The second night we ate at Las Gallegas, a paladar close to the main square. An odd sort of place, in an old (and run down) colonial building, lon since subdivided into many apartments. We climbed the stairs to the first floor, and the owner's son was removed from the table on which he was doing his homework. We were then installed on it on the small balcony overlooking the quiet side street. The lady of the house accomplished the whole operation with a mobile phone clamped between her shoulder and her ear. A well used sheet of paper was given to us with the menu, and we chose from it.

The food arrived, and the lady managed to deliver it with the phone still glued to her ear, and her conversation with the caller uninterrupted. The meal itself was unmemorable - two weeks later I have no idea what we had. The experience though was unique, sitting on the narrow balcony, in the Cuban night, eating off a plastic table over which was draped a well used (call that dirty) table cloth resplendent with not a few holes. Some time later we left, and as the lady was still on the phone, left her the money on the table

Would I recommend it? I am not sure really. One doe not go to Cuba for gourmet food, one goes for the experience, and this was an experience.

Click on any of the small pictures below to get a large image

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A Mojito in Casa Granda Casa Granda Hotel Casa Granda Hotel From roof of Casa Granda Hotel
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From roof of Casa Granda Hotel Promenade at the seafront El Batturo Waiting and waiting at El Batturo
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The Cathedral .. from many angles ... from many angles ... from many angles

Happily all to see in Santiago was in easy walk of the hotel. The Casa Granda Hotel was apparent used by both Hemingway and Graham Greene, normally a good enough reason to avoid a place, but this was worth visiting to take a mojito on the downstairs terrace, and another on the roof at the other bar there.

A stroll round the cathedral square, down to the port, where we were pursued somewhat relentlessly by a rickshaw driver, and round the town. Same sort of tour the next day and went around a couple of uninspiring museums to boot (most museums close on Mondays so we could not go into them on our first day.

Santiago de Cuba to Baracoa

Our Cuban Holiday